Social media can look like a gateway drug to young addicts bent on laying bets online. We need to guard against the dangers of both
The worlds of late childhood and early adolescence are absorbing, often overwhelming, and at best partially accessible to the adults orbiting them. So it is shocking, but not perhaps surprising, to discover that around 25,000 11- to 16-year-olds are problem gamblers, according to new research. Another 36,000 are at risk of developing a problem. Most children try their hand for the first time via fruit machines or the national lottery, and television bombards them with betting adverts. But a growing number are exposed via new means, such as computer games and social media. While the overall number of problem gamblers has fallen in recent years, new perils are emerging.
More than one in 10 children have tried “skins” betting – allowing them to bet using in-game items, some of which can be converted to money. In other cases, they try casino-style games accessible on Facebook or smartphone apps, enjoying a bit of the thrill of a big win, without facing the actual consequences of the more likely loss. The charity GambleAware has warned of its concerns about the normalisation of gambling for young people and called for a precautionary approach.